My old college friend group chat revived with the announcements of Summer Game Fest. Sitting with bated breath in our respective gaming chairs, our fingers flew across our keyboards to share our excitement together, even though we were miles apart.  In person, I coaxed my boyfriend to sit behind me so I could jab his arm every time I saw something exciting, which was a lot of the time.

Starting off immediately with a shout-out to smaller game dev teams and indie creators, the host Geoff Keighley set the tone for the day of announcements. As an enjoyer of indie games and a small game developer myself, the acknowledgement exemplifies how the tides are turning in the industry where anyone can find an audience for their games and create an online community. 

Many of the games Keighley announced in the first 2 hours of the weekend-long festival were online co-ops which increased in popularity through stay-at-home policies during the 2020 pandemic. That time showed people the promise in this style of game, and these gems only continue to be polished as releases get more exciting each year which showed in this year’s Summer Game Fest. Whether the vibe is to work with your friends or fight against them, there’s an upcoming release for every game night.

It’s blasphemy, but I’ve never played Horizon Zero Dawn, a game that has won a slew of awards and rightfully earned itself a loyal fanbase. But, kicking off the start to the show, the collaboration between Horizon and Lego coming out later this year is really making me second guess that decision because Lego Horizon Adventures looks to be an enticing gateway into the franchise. The new 2-player adventure looks to be a promising bridge between seasoned fans and new players literally and figuratively. I’m already thinking of a way to convince one of my friends who’s a diehard Horizon fan to play with me through the online co-op functionality (it will not be a hard fight). With the lighthearted and playful banter between the narrator of the announcement and Aloy, Horizon’s heroine, the first announcement set the tone for a night of anticipation.

For horror junkies who play Dead By Daylight and Phasmophobia right before bed, No More Room in Hell 2 is right up their dark and creepy alley. Reminiscent of the classic Left 4 Dead, players can grab up to 8 friends to survive a zombie apocalypse. All of the hypotheticals about who will survive in the friend group can be tested as the game has permadeath and you really can see who will be the last one standing. The first-person perspective and graphics shown in the announcement are already enough to make any audience member shudder. There is certainly room in your Steam wishlist for this Halloween beta release.

From solo game developer Gavin Eisenbeisz, CUFFBUST smashes onto the screens and into our minds like a more violent AmongUs. The game promises up to 20-player co-op as little gummy bear-like creatures called Jailens working together to escape from prison– a fever dream-like concept that flourished without oversight from a larger studio, risks only a solo developer can take. The wildness of the game continues to even the release date announcement that read, “Coming 2025 Maybe, IDK TBH.” 

After back-to-back legendary reveals for Star Wars Outlaws, Neva and Civilization VII, Black Myth: Wukong enamored with a stunning scene that imbued a sense of calm despite the gargantuan monsters writhing on the screen between depictions of the infamous monkey king, which is no surprise as the game won an award for Best Visuals at Gamescom 2023. As the music score crescendos, the epic animation ends with Wukong taking out his mythical needle-staff as four giants tower over him. The trailer stands as a testament to games as a modern way for cultures and age-old stories to be exchanged. Though no gameplay was presented, the artistry of the music and character design showcased has me looking forward to August 20, 2024.

The first guests of the night were industry powerhouses Katsura Hashino and Shigenori Soejima from ATLUS who publish the Persona series. They announced their upcoming title Metaphor: ReFantazio. Though Persona lovers will see the parallels between the announcement and their familiar fighting gameplay with archetypes sounding similar to personas, manifestations of emotions that imbue their users with extra power, Metaphor’s high fantasy aesthetic sets it apart. With phrases in the trailer like “great evil, “true magic” and a special “power” that only the main character wields, players will be part of a classic hero’s journey narrative when the game releases October 11, 2024.

At this next announcement, my boyfriend began to excitedly shake my arm and ask if I knew how big this was. Street Fighter 6 had an exciting reveal. As each torso of a character was teased, my fighting-game-obsessed boyfriend guessed each one correctly. His eyes went wide at the image of a torn-sleeveless white t-shirt and red vest. “Terry??” rang in my ear. The Fatal Fury cap and a side smirk filled the scene next and confirmed his rising interest. Street Fighter and Fatal Fury, the two of the most legendary names in the fighting game scene published by CAPCOM and SNK respectively, are crossing over once again with Terry and Mai from Fatal Fury appearing as DLC characters for Street Fighter 6’s Year 2. This reveal made the entire Summer Game Fest worth it for my boyfriend. Though my experience with fighting games, consisting of Mortal Kombat on my Wii, is less robust than his, this exciting collaboration makes my muscles yearn to learn complex combos once more to play with him in Street Fighter 6.

From the minds that worked on the The Purge, Five Nights at Freddy’s and M3GAN movies, Blumhouse Productions decided to expand their horror storytelling capabilities into the games medium. “[Blumhouse is] going to do independent games, look for these creators, give them a platform and encourage these creators to be weird and subversive and to find the most effed up, scariest things they can and put them into really cool games,” said the CEO and founder of Blumhouse Productions Jason Blum when presenting Blumhouse Games’ inaugural lineup. They previewed a plethora of upcoming titles. Each game featured unique gameplay and aesthetics complete with expertly handpicked horror stories. The brief glimpses were more enticing than any movie trailer in a theater that I’ve ever seen. Grave Seasons is a Stardew Valley with a supernatural murder mystery twist. Fear the Spotlight tugs at memories of grade school and fun times tempting a Ouija board. The game features old-school graphics and a character that promises to keep the main character safe which definitely means she’ll be protected… right? The Simulation tells a meta story about a video game designer asked to participate in a creepy investigation all while making cheeky jokes about game development. With Blumhouse’s current track record with horror stories, these games seem like excellent additions to their collection.

Wanderstop by the creator of the mind-bending The Stanley Parable is presented as an excellent contribution to the cozy fantasy genre that has been taking over the internet. The concept fits right in: a fighter spending her days working in a tea shop, taking a break from the arena. But with a final surprise, the preview had watchers (aka me) exclaiming, “what happens next” while leaning closer to my screen as the trailer ends with our main character aggressively assuring herself that she is where she wants to be and a vision of a sword appearing in her mind. Something is brewing, and it’s not just tea. If the story is already this compelling in just 1 minute, the rest of the game must be tea-riffic.

The Monster Hunter Wilds trailer threw us right into the action of their latest game. The acclaimed franchise unveiled their latest installment with the series producer Ryozo Tsujimoto taking the stage to talk about the exciting details. Tsujimoto announced that cross platform play will be available as soon as the game releases in 2025 between Xbox Series X/S, Playstation 5, and PC.Just as the Hunter says in the trailer, “you can’t do this alone!”

Throughout the entire whirlwind of Summer Game Fest, one constant was the palpable enthusiasm from the audience not only the physical audience’s applause and exclamations heard through the livestream and my wide-eyed boyfriend sitting beside me but also the community on Twitter and, even more personally, my own group of friends passing frantic messages to each other on Discord. On top of showing us amazing new games coming our way, Summer Game Fest also showed everyone that games bring people together near and far. They connect us all as long as we let them, and what better way to continue that connection than with one of the amazing games announced during Summer Game Fest?